I. Profile Report
1. NAME: FUNDAMENTALISM
2. FOUNDER: NO ONE PERSON CAN BE CREDITED WITH FOUNDING FUNDAMENTALISM. NOR DOES ANY SINGLE GROUP COMPRISE THE HISTORY OF THE MOVEMENT. THE LABEL `FUNDAMENTALIST' IS USED AS BOTH ANADJECTIVE AND A NOUN
ACCORDINGLY, TRYING TO UNDERSTAND THE PHENOMENA REQUIRES MORE THAN KNOWING A FEW NAMES AND DATES. CURTIS LEE LAWS, EDITOR OF A CONSERVATIVE PUBLICATION ENTITLED WATCHMAN-EXAMINER IS CREDITED WITH COINING THE TERM "FUNDAMENTALISM."
3. ORIGIN OF THE CONCEPT: THE TERM `FUNDAMENTALISM' HAS ITS ORIGIN IN A SERIES OF PAMPHLETS PUBLISHED BETWEEN 1910 AND 1915. ENTITLED "THE FUNDAMENTALS: A TESTIMONY TO THE TRUTH," THESE BOOKLETS WERE AUTHORED BY LEADING EVANGELICAL CHURCHMEN AND WERE CIRCULATED FREE OF CHARGE AMONG CLERGYMEN AND SEMINARIANS. BY AND LARGE, FUNDAMENTALISM WAS A RESPONSE TO THE LOSS OF INFLUENCE TRADITIONAL REVIVALISM EXPERIENCED IN AMERICA DURING THE EARLY YEARS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. THIS LOSS OF INFLUENCE, COUPLED WITH THE LIBERALIZING TRENDS OF GERMAN BIBLICAL CRITICISM AND THE ENCROACHMENT OF DARWINIAN THEORIES ABOUT THE ORIGIN OF THE UNIVERSE, PROMPTED A RESPONSE BY CONSERVATIVE CHURCHMEN. THE RESULT WAS THE PAMPHLETS. IN 1920, A JOURNALIST AND BAPTIST LAYMAN NAMED CURTIS LEE LAWS APPROPRIATED THE TERM `FUNDAMENTALIST' AS A DESIGNATION FOR THOSE WHO WERE READY "TO DO BATTLE ROYAL FOR THE FUNDAMENTALS."
4. DATE OF BIRTH: SECOND DECADE OF THE 20TH CENTURY
5. BIRTH PLACE: THE UNITED STATES
6. YEAR FOUNDED: CONCEPT COINED IN 1920
7. SACRED OR REVERED TEXTS :
The Bible is the sacred text of the Christian Fundamentalists. Indeed, if there is one single thing which binds Fundamentalists together, it is their insistence that the Bible is to be understood as literally true. Further, Fundamentalists see themselves as the guardians of the truth, usually to the exclusion of others' interpretation of the Bible. Fundamentalism in other faith traditions similarly proclaims guardianship of truth.
8. CULT OR SECT: NEGATIVE SENTIMENTS ARE TYPICALLY IMPLIED WHEN THE CONCEPTS "CULT" AND "SECT" ARE EMPLOYED IN POPULAR DISCOURSE. SINCE THE RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS HOMEPAGE SEEKS TO PROMOTE RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE AND APPRECIATION OF THE POSITIVE BENEFITS OF PLURALISM AND RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY IN HUMAN CULTURES, WE ENCOURAGE THE USE OF ALTERNATIVE CONCEPTS THAT DO NOT CARRY IMPLICIT NEGATIVE STEREOTYPES. FOR A MORE DETAILED DISCUSSION OF BOTH SCHOLARLY AND POPULAR USAGE OF THE CONCEPTS "CULT" AND "SECT," PLEASE VISIT OUR CONCEPTUALIZING "CULT" AND "SECT" PAGE, WHERE YOU WILL FIND ADDITIONAL LINKS TO RELATED ISSUES.
9. SIZE OF GROUP: THE SIZE OF THIS GROUP DEPENDS ON HOW FUNDAMENTALISM IS DEFINED. CONSERVATIVELY ESTIMATED, THERE ARE AT LEAST 30 MILLION CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALISTS IN THE U.S. ALONE. FUNDAMENTALISM STANDS WITH PENTECOSTALISM AS THE MOST SUCCESSFUL RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS OF THE 20TH CENTURY.
II. Problems in Analyzing Fundamentalism:
ONE CAN HARDLY READ A WEEKLY NEWS MAGAZINE WITHOUT ENCOUNTERING THE TERM `FUNDAMENTALIST' WITH REFERENCE TO SOME GROUP ACTIVE ON THE WORLD STAGE. IN FACT, THE POPULARITY OF THE TERM IS PART OF THE PROBLEM. SEVERAL SCHOLARS HAVE NOTED THE DIFFICULTY INHERENT IN USING AN IMPRECISE TERM LIKE `FUNDAMENTALISM' TO DESCRIBE GROUPS AS DIFFERENT AS THE CHRISTIAN COALITION AND THE NATION OF ISLAM.
Jeffrey K. Hadden has identified four types offundamentalism. First, theological fundamentalism was the Christian theological movement concerned with defending traditional Christian doctrine against modern thinking. Political fundamentalism is a combination of theological fundamentalism and the personal commitments of religious adherents to combat worldly vices. Manifestations of political fundamentalism include much of the activity in the temperance movement or the virulent anticommunism of Gerald L.K. Smith. Political fundamentalism suffered a major setback by their defeat at the Scopes Monkey trial.
These two types of fundamentalism melded together to combine a caricature of culturally unenlightened individuals bent on preserving tradition at the expense of progress. This cultural fundamentalism was cynically portrayed by social critics such as H.L. Mencken and novelists such as Sinclair Lewis. William Jennings Bryan served as the prototype for Mencken after the debacle of the Scopes trial in Tennessee. The political activity engaged in by fundamentalists invited comparison to other religiously motivated groups around the world. Accordingly, global fundamentalism as a phenomena denotes many religiously motivated politically active groups existing in a variety of religious traditions and political systems.
Defining Fundamentalism: Given the many disparate uses of the concept, it is not surprising that fundamentalism has not been easy to define. Several recent works are helpful in developing a conceptual understanding of the phenomenon. Three important works are examined here:
BRUCE LAWRENCE, DEFENDERS OF GOD: THE FUNDAMENTALIST REVOLT AGAINST THE MODERN AGE
Lawrence defines fundamentalism as " the affirmation of religious authority as holistic and absolute, admitting of neither criticism nor reduction; it is expressed through the collective demand that specific creedal and ethical dictates derived from scripture be publicly recognized and legally enforced ."
Lawrence argues that fundamentalism is a specific kind of religious ideology. It is antimodern, but not antimodernist. In other words, it rejects the philosophical rationalism and individualism that accompany modernity, but it takes full advantage of certain technological advances that also characterize the modern age. The most consistent denominator is opposition to Enlightenment values. Lawrence believes that fundamentalism is a world-wide phenomena and that it must be compared in various contexts before it can be understood or explained with any clarity.
Lawrence ends his general discussion by listing five "family resemblances" common to fundamentalism. 1) Fundamentalists are advocates of a minority viewpoint. They see themselves as a righteous remnant. Even when they are numerically a majority, they perceive themselves as a minority. 2) They are oppositional and confrontational towards both secularists and "wayward" religious followers. 3) They are secondary level male elites led invariably by charismatic males. 4) Fundamentalists generate their own technical vocabulary. 5) Fundamentalism has historical antecedents, but no ideological precursor.
The Fundamentalism Project, directed and edited by Martin E. Marty and Scott Appleby (see bibliography below for publications resultling from this project)
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences funded a multiyear project that brought scholars from around the world together to study Fundamentalism. Ultimately they produced 5 volumes containing almost 8,000 pages of material. Admitting some difficulty with the term, the project opts to use it anyway for a variety of reasons. Essentially, they argue that it is commonly accepted, here to stay, and the best term anyone can come up with for this phenomena. The last chapter of volume 1, Fundamentalisms Observed, discusses the "family resemblances" found in the various chapters.
These family resemblances include:
1. RELIGIOUS IDEALISM AS BASIS FOR PERSONAL AND COMMUNAL IDENTITY;
2. FUNDAMENTALISTS UNDERSTAND TRUTH TO BE REVEALED AND UNIFIED;
3. IT IS INTENTIONALLY SCANDALOUS, (SIMILAR TO LAWRENCE'S POINT ABOUT LANGUAGE -- OUTSIDERS CANNOT UNDERSTAND IT);
4. FUNDAMENTALISTS ENVISION THEMSELVES AS PART OF A COSMIC STRUGGLE;
5. THEY SEIZE ON HISTORICAL MOMENTS AND REINTERPRET THEM IN LIGHT OF THIS COSMIC STRUGGLE;
6. THEY DEMONIZE THEIR OPPOSITION AND ARE REACTIONARY;
7. FUNDAMENTALISTS ARE SELECTIVE IN WHAT PARTS OF THEIR TRADITION AND HERITAGE THEY STRESS;
8. THEY ARE LED BY MALES;
9. THEY ENVY MODERNIST CULTURAL HEGEMONY AND TRY TO OVERTURN THE DISTRIBUTION OF POWER.
The Fundamentalism Project enumerates several more of these "family resemblances" but most are represented in this abbreviated list.
The last several chapters of the final volume, Fundamentalisms Comprehended, attempts to delineate several properties of Fundamentalism with the research of the previous 7,500 pages in mind. Appleby, Emmanuel Sivan, and Gabriel Almond list 5 ideological characteristics and 4 organizational characteristics of fundamentalism. The Five ideological characteristics are:
10. FUNDAMENTALISTS ARE CONCERNED "FIRST" WITH THE EROSION OF RELIGION AND ITS PROPER ROLE IN SOCIETY;
11. FUNDAMENTALISM IS SELECTIVE OF THEIR TRADITION AND WHAT PART OF MODERNITY THEY ACCEPT OR CHOOSE TO REACT AGAINST;
12. THEY EMBRACE SOME FORM OF MANICHEANISM (DUALISM);
13. FUNDAMENTALISTS STRESS ABSOLUTISM AND INERRANCY IN THEIR SOURCES OF REVELATION; AND
14. THEY OPT FOR SOME FORM OF MILLENNIALISM OR MESSIANISM.
The organizational characteristics include:
15. AN ELECT OR CHOSEN MEMBERSHIP;
16. SHARP GROUP BOUNDARIES;
17. CHARISMATIC AUTHORITARIAN LEADERS; AND
18. MANDATED BEHAVIORAL REQUIREMENTS.
Jeffrey K. Hadden and Anson Shupe, "Secularization and Fundamentalism Reconsidered"
At about the same time that the Fundamentalism Project was getting underway, Hadden and Anson Shupe offered the following definition of fundamentalism. It is " a proclamation of reclaimed authority over a sacred tradition which is to be reinstated as an antidote for a society that has strayed from its cultural moorings. " Hadden and Shupe note that fundamentalists refute the split between sacred and secular that characterizes modernist thinking. It also involves a plan to bring religion back to center stage in public policy decisions.
As the Fundamentalism Project makes clear, in every corner of the world and in every major faith tradition, there are groups identified by some as fundamentalists. Hadden and Shupe argue that fundamentalism is an attempt to draw upon a religious tradition to cope with and reshape an already changing world. The question arises: What changes are so world wide that a reactive movement like fundamentalism can be found anywhere in the world? The answer, according to Hadden and Shupe, is globalization. The range of religious responses to globalization explains fundamentalism's global presence.
Hadden and Shupe argue that around the world there is a "common process of secularizing social change." This process contains "the very seeds of a reaction that brings religion back into the heart of concerns about public policy. The secular...is also the cause of resacralization...[which] often takes fundamentalistic forms."